Friends and family of a slain corrections officer are in mourning and officials are trying to figure out how an inmate freed himself Monday during a medical check-up, allegedly killed the officer and led police on a high-speed, rush-hour chase across Salt Lake City.
Police said inmate Curtis Michael Allgier was alone with Stephen Anderson in an examination room at the University of Utah’s Orthopaedic Center awaiting an MRI on his back about 7:45 a.m. Allgier somehow shed his shackles, overpowered and disarmed Anderson and shot him in the head before fleeing, police said.
Anderson died at the scene. Allgier was arrested about 55 minutes later at an Arby’s restaurant 7 1/2 miles away and
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remains in Salt Lake County jail facing a murder charge.
Allgier, a heavily tattooed member of the Aryan Empire Warriors, had a history of incarceration and escape and, most recently, had a falling out with his white supremacist gang mates, officials said. He was being housed in a single cell in Utah State Prison’s Uinta Four maximum security unit for his own safety, Department of Corrections chief Tom Patterson said.
After the killing, police said, Allgier ran out of the hospital, gun in hand, in an orange prison jumpsuit and forced two people out of a Ford Explorer a block from the hospital’s entrance.
Police throughout the Salt Lake Valley were alerted. Salt Lake City officers staked out an address where a known associate of Allgier lived and spotted the Explorer in the area, about 900 West and 400 South, police said.
Allgier then led police on a chase that reached speeds of up to 100 mph on Interstate 15, Interstate 80 and Interstate 215, and despite having his tires shredded, ended up at an Arby’s restaurant at 17th South and Redwood Road about 8:30 a.m., police said. Allgier had changed into a T-shirt and long shorts, but police had no explanation for how that happened.
At some point, Allgier called a friend on a cellular telephone and told her that he had killed an officer, Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller said. The Associated Press quoted the friend, Tricia Tower, as saying Allgier said he was sorry.
“I didn’t even know how to deal with that,” she said in an interview at her Salt Lake City home. ”Nobody knows what happened in that room between the two of them. . . . I feel sorry for that family, but I have a loss, too.”
Salt Lake City officers chasing Allgier suffered minor injuries after crashing in an intersection near 900 West and 300 South, Salt Lake City police Assistant Chief Scott Atkinson said.
Inside the Arby’s, a slim, 59-year-old customer fought with Allgier and disarmed him, police said.
One shot was fired inside the Arby’s, and a Salt Lake City police officer fired once outside, police said. It was unclear who the officer was shooting at, police spokesman Sgt. Rich Brede said. Nobody was hit. The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the shot fired by police.
Miller said she would consider a capital murder charge, punishable by death.
Anderson, 60, a 22-year corrections veteran, was the second officer to die on duty since 1988, when polygamist Addam Swapp blew up an LDS stake center and became locked in a standoff with authorities at his Marion home. Corrections Lt. Fred House was shot and killed in a planned FBI ambush of Swapp and his brothers.
Patterson said Anderson appeared to follow all of the department’s rules for transporting prisoners. Later Monday, Patterson temporarily halted all prison transports pending an investigation and review of policies.
It was Allgier’s third or fourth visit to the orthopedic center, Patterson said. Each time, one officer watched over Allgier pursuant to corrections policy, he said.
Police had not determined how Allgier got free of restraints, Patterson said. He would typically wear metal ankle and wrist cuffs when entering the hospital, Patterson said.
At some point, the officer would have switched the steel handcuffs for plastic restraints and taken off the ankle restraints so Allgier could enter the MRI machine, Patterson said. It was unclear Monday afternoon if and how that had happened.
Allgier had been in and out of prison since 2001, when he was sent to prison for burglary, forgery and escape convictions. His most recent arrest came Nov. 3, when he was taken into custody by a Salt Lake County SWAT team and booked for allegedly violating parole by removing an ankle monitor. The sheriff’s metro gang had listed Allgier on its weekly No. 1 most wanted list.
During the November arrest, Allgier crawled through the rafters of a Midvale motel and fell through the ceiling, possibly sustaining the back injury he was being treated for Monday, sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Paul Jaroscak said.
Police recovered a 9 mm handgun during that arrest, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a firearms charge the same day, according to court records. He was scheduled to be moved out of state to a federal prison to serve a nine-year sentence for the gun charge, Patterson said.
Corrections spokesman Jack Ford said white supremacists inside the prison were angry about comments Allgier made in television interviews he gave from prison. Ford declined to characterize those comments.
A half-dozen people inside the hospital heard at least one shot or saw Allgier running out of the hospital, said Scott Folson, director of public safety for the university. But no one saw the shooting or struggle with the officer, he said.
Police hoped evidence in the room and interviews with Allgier would paint a better picture of what happened, Atkinson said.
But with no camera inside the exam room, police may never fully know what took place, Folson said.
“There are many questions we may not be able to answer,” Folson said.